In unison, they moved to the rhythm of the classic Bob Marley song ‘One Love/People Get Ready.’ The occasion was a dinner and dance hosted by the Alberta chapter of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) in Edmonton.
People filled the dance floor, as the music began. It was an impromptu invitation by SLPP executive Ansu Kaikai who asked everyone to set the recent elections aside and join what he called a “peace dance.”
“It takes a lot of courage to be part of a victory celebration, when you lose,” Paul Duwai Sowa earlier observed as he thanked and praised supporters of the All People’s Congress (APC) and National Grand Coalition (NGC) who graced the occasion. He was speaking as chairman of the SLPP in Canada and one of the special guests at the high table.
Chief Sowa, as Paul is fondly called, later introduced executives and advisers of the Alberta chapter. Each official was adorned with a green-white-and-blue sash, the national colours of Sierra Leone, after they had taken a solemn oath of office. Chief Sowa administered the oaths, with help from Dr. Batema and other special guests. Dr. Alfred Saffa and Thomas Kakpindi Allie (TeeKay) were also sworn in and then honoured, as advisers to the executive committee of the chapter.
The high table seated the following dignitaries: Paul Sowa, Dr. Moses Batema, Victor Kaicombey, Ansu Kaikai, Aly Kamara, Komeh Sandy, Maima Tamba, Edna Batema, Dr. Lamin Massaquoi, Henry Menyar, and Simeon Ganda. Another highlight: was the inauguration of Ansu Kaikai as chairman of said chapter. It was quite an elaborate ceremony. Earlier, during the introductions, Kaikai had made a dramatic entry, as supporters sang and danced with him all the way to the podium. This time, officials raised a small screen that was big enough to block the view of guests. Behind it, Kaikai, Sowa, and other party insiders presumably performed the rite. After a few minutes, the screen was taken away, revealing a seated Kaikai. He was dressed in a flowing gown and a hat emblazoned with ‘SLPP”.. In his arms was a dark-coloured mace; a symbol of his leadership.
The newly inaugurated president was closely supported by his wife Kula, daughter Yattarose, and mother Sombo Kaikai. With Kula by his side and Yattarose tumbling around, Kaikai gave a speech in which he first acknowledged and thanked supporters and guests. Kaikai then pledged to represent his constituents with utmost transparency and accountability, urging unity across partisan, ethnic, and regional lines.
Kaikai also singled out staunch SLPP member Raymond Taylor. He cited the pioneering role Taylor played in laying the foundation for the Alberta chapter. “I thank Mr. Taylor on behalf of the (Canada) region; for his fortitude, for his initiative,” he said. He added that Taylor started the conversation when an SLPP branch seemed far-fetched. “Mr. Raymond Taylor is the reason we are here today,” Kaikai summed up.
Speaking to The Patriotic Vanguard, Taylor said he weathered challenges as he sought to start an SLPP branch here. “I was probably seen as a unifier and not a divider,” He said. “I made people realize that we could work as Sierra Leoneans, as a team.” Taylor said was able to get the branch formally recognized by the province of Alberta in September 2015.
The evening’s formalities began with Christian and Islamic prayers; led by Simeon Ganda (Christian) and Dr. Lamin Massaquoi, respectively. These were followed by a welcome address delivered by Dr. Alfred Saffa. Dinner was served soon afterwards. A unique décor was the fruit table. It was as attractive as it was appetizing - literally. The table was covered in a wide variety of well-cut fruit; lined with leaf-green ornaments.. There were clear representations of the palm tree – the symbol of the SLPP and a key part of its logo. Matilda Kamara (aka Matkhadie Kay), is credited with this culinary work of art.
Vice-chairman Aly Kamara gave the vote of thanks to close the formalities. He interpreted the SLPP’s victory as a win for democracy. He called on all Sierra Leoneans to support President Julius Maada Bio and his government. “If you pray for the leader to fail, it is the whole country that will fail,” Kamara said. There was a cultural performance during the dance.